Why you should care
Because Archie’s pro-pistol rant is easily the funniest anti-gun editorial you’ll see. And it’s over 40 years old.
If anyone had an opinion on anything controversial, it was armchair philosopher Archie Bunker.
Archie, the blue-collar, conservative curmudgeon and central character in the syndicated hit show All in the Family, definitely had an opinion on handguns — a strong stance he shared more than 40 years ago in the first episode of season three: “It’s my God-given right to have a gun in the house,” he trumpets in his trademark loudmouth, working-class New York accent to his lefty son-in-law, Mike, aka Meathead. Archie is so irked by a TV editorial advocating for restrictions on handguns that he signs up to do a televised rebuttal.
All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. … Case closed.
— Archie Bunker
It was September 1972, and the award-winning All in the Family was in its second year at No.1 in the ratings. As with most All in the Family episodes, Archie Bunker’s political incorrectness — on everything from racism to politics and equality to lesbianism — leads to a lesson in enlightenment. Delivered in butt-clenching but hilarious form. Because when Archie appears on TV to give the thumbs-up for gun ownership, his flawed logic has the opposite effect, inadvertently building a case for gun control.
The crux of his argument: prevent “stick-ups” and skyjacking by giving everyone a gun.
By 1971, skyjacking was so frequent that a U.K. insurance company began offering hijacking insurance to travelers to the U.S. In December 1972, metal detectors and mandatory passenger screening began, grounding the skyjacking era.
For the audience at home, Archie’s editorial would have echoed a very clear and present social turbulence. Escalating crime and riots rattled America in the ’60s and early ’70s. But violence in the skies was also gripping the country’s imagination. It’s hard to believe now, but skyjacking was quite common — sometimes up to twice per week, and often with Cuba as the destination.
Listen once, hum it all day long: The All in the Family theme song
In his “Guns for Everybody” rebuttal, Archie confidently tells viewers he has the answer to the problem. Before they get on the plane, “All you gotta do is arm all your passengers. They just pass out the pistols at the beginning of the trip, and then pick them up again at the end. Case closed.” The studio audience erupts into laughter — but his train of thought isn’t that far from the views voiced by the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre a week after the Sandy Hook shooting, when he called for armed guards at every school, saying, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Which was kinda Archie’s point, underscored at the end of the show when, ironically, he is robbed at gunpoint. While the family is having a drink at the local bar, a person who saw Archie’s editorial approaches him under the guise of being a like-minded citizen, but instead pulls out a gun and takes Archie’s wallet.
Afterward, Archie bemoans not being able to defend himself with a gun. His daughter, Gloria, cautions that with two armed people, both of them could have ended up dead. Exasperated, Archie argues, “Well, at least I’d have more money than I got now!”
Yes, those were the days.